Since some drugs are legal, Americans might be inclined to think they are less dangerous. Take Ritalin, for example. It helps people struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by millions. Yet, psychiatric studies indicate that it could lead to homicide.
Ritalin addiction can cause a person to have a psychotic break and go on a rampage. Although Ritalin abuse doesn’t typically lead to homicidal rage, reports happen. Those suffering from a substance use disorder of this nature must find help quickly, even if they feel they must avoid it.
Firstly, Ritalin is a type of stimulant drug. Stimulants work by speeding up the body’s systems, including chemical production. Ritalin is a stimulant specifically known as methylphenidate. Generally, Ritalin helps children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Tasks and activities that disinterest individuals with ADHD may become entertaining or rewarding with Ritalin.
To touch on how Ritalin helps those with health disorders, it’s important to explore the common signs of ADHD. Men and women typically experience attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder differently. More men than women are diagnosed with this disorder. For this reason, doctors at times turn a blind eye toward women or girls with ADHD.
Signs of ADHD in men:
Signs of ADHD in women:
Some of the signs of ADHD in women and men are the same. Yet, men tend to display more symptoms of hyperactivity. Ritalin may help with a dual diagnosis aka co-occurring disorder. Both women and men with this neurodevelopmental disorder are prone to depression. Women especially tend to become distressed psychologically when they suffer from it. Further, because of the way that Ritalin works, it combats depression in a way.
That said, Ritalin is diverted by the illicit market, which often turns into Ritalin abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse occur when a person overuses substances or uses them in a legally unintended way. Unfortunately, people use Ritalin in an unintended way. They might pretend they have ADHD to get a prescription. A person with a prescription might sell them to friends. The misconception that stimulants like Ritalin help with focus propels further illegal use.
To continue, stimulants speed up the body’s systems. This includes the central nervous system, predominantly located in the brain. In particular, methylphenidates, like Ritalin, increase dopamine levels. It does this by blocking the chemicals in the body that transport dopamine. While this seems counterintuitive, these chemicals also move dopamine after release. By stopping this function, dopamine sits there, increasing without being removed.
This works for individuals with ADHD because they have too many chemicals that transport dopamine. This is why they have low levels. Low levels of dopamine can be traced back to the following issues:
Also, Ritalin increases the levels of norepinephrine. This chemical, in tandem with adrenaline, speeds up the heart rate. This gets the blood pumping and increases energy levels in turn. The increased levels of dopamine and norepinephrine help those who have a deficiency. Yet, people who engage in Ritalin abuse end up with too many of these chemicals.
It can be pleasant at first. Increased energy and mood levels seem great in the short-term. Yet, using this prescription medication illegally can end up in a Ritalin addiction. Although unneeded, the brain becomes used to these high levels of “feel-good” chemicals. In turn, it craves more and any. This physically manifests as withdrawal symptoms.
The science behind Ritalin makes it easy to get addicted. Yet, Ritalin addiction is likely to happen when it has the ability to take effect quickly. For instance, people may engage in Ritalin abuse by snorting or injecting it. This leads to quicker absorption than taking it orally, hence a higher rate of addiction.
Though, those with Ritalin prescriptions can end up addicted to it as well. This can happen if they decide the dose isn’t strong enough, so they take more than prescribed. Their body builds up a tolerance to it; it wants more than it had before. Before they know it, they start to display signs and symptoms of Ritalin addiction.
Continuing, these are common signs and symptoms of Ritalin abuse:
These signs and symptoms are classic examples of Ritalin abuse. Millions of Americans engage in it every year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). They note that five million Americans misuse prescription stimulants every year. Also, NIDA writes that around half a million Americans have a diagnosed stimulant addiction disorder.
Methylphenidate isn’t as addictive as other drugs like opioids. Yet, thousands suffer from an addiction every year nonetheless. People develop a Ritalin addiction after they get hooked on the stimulant sensation.
Ritalin can make a person feel:
Additionally, a person might stop feeling focused and happy without Ritalin. This is a common sign of addiction. They need help before it gets worse.
Surprisingly, people who use Ritalin legally and illegally can experience a withdrawal from Ritalin. Not only that, the withdrawal can be painful and mentally taxing. Typically, doctors may taper a patient off of this medication. In this way, a patient might be able to avoid withdrawal or at least the worst of it.
Those who abuse Ritalin will likely have withdrawal symptoms and signs. Individuals suffering from a Ritalin addiction may choose not to stop even if they want to. This is because they can’t stand the way it feels without it. Withdrawal can result in a psychotic break if they are severe enough.
Signs and symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal include:
Further, the list above isn’t exhaustive. Individuals suffering from a withdrawal from Ritalin may display one or more of these signs and symptoms. This depends on the severity of their addiction. In other words, a person who has been battling a Ritalin addiction for decades might hallucinate vividly. On the other hand, a person who’s engaged in Ritalin abuse for a month may not. That’s not to say that they won’t at all.
The best way to mitigate the symptoms of Ritalin withdrawal is by attending an addiction treatment center. For instance, the trained staff at a stimulant addiction center can safely taper revering individuals off of Ritalin. They might also provide other medications to stop a mood or anxiety disorder from occurring. While the experience may be uncomfortable, they can prevent it from becoming unbearable. Otherwise, a person might choose to stay addicted, but not in pain as a result.
Unfortunately, anyone is at risk for addiction. People who may not think that they could become addicted to substances might be the ones most at risk. The wrong situation can turn into drug abuse. There is a misconception that people develop a drug and alcohol addiction because they’re immoral or mentally weak.
Actually, it’s the opposite. People who end up with a Ritalin addiction may be trying to cope with deeper physical or mental pain. That’s why it’s important to never judge anyone when they go through a situation as terrible as addiction. It’s even more important to support them when they make the decision to stop using.
Certain groups of people may be more at risk for a Ritalin addiction than others:
These groups of people may resort to Ritalin abuse when they don’t see another viable option. This is especially true for the millions of uninsured Americans. They’re unable to pay for a consultation, but they can afford to buy Ritalin illegally and periodically.
Studies indicate that prescription drugs, like Ritalin, can be more addictive than cocaine. That’s why it’s important to go with a reputable stimulant treatment center. Ritalin withdrawal can be excruciating in multiple ways. That’s not the case if it happens within a facility that understands how to bypass the worst parts of withdrawal.
Treatment for Ritalin addiction typically starts with detoxification (detox). This crucial, initial stage rids the body of any harmful toxin build-up. Also, it removes the drug from a person’s system completely. This stage might last a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Medical professionals might aid a patient via medications that block the worst of withdrawal symptoms.
Forms of treatment for a Ritalin Addiction might include:
No form of treatment for an addiction to Ritalin is better than another. It depends on what works for the recovering individual. That said, residential treatment might be good for a severe drug abuse problem. That way, they can focus completely on recovery rather than other responsibilities.
If you are battling a Ritalin addiction, you may feel alone. Your family and friends might not understand that you’re not in control of your actions anymore—the drugs are. Trust us, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person who needs help. Free By The Sea offers treatment for Ritalin abuse in Washington, meaning we can help you get over this together. Contact us now to begin your journey to recovery from Ritalin abuse. We’re here to help!
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.